Doctoral scholarship eDNA fish

ILVO is currently looking for a doctoral fellow for employment within the Animal Unit located in Ostend.

Job description

Environmental DNA (eDNA) comprises the collection of DNA that occurs in the environment (water, air, soil) through the presence of e.g. reproductive cells and larvae or through released skin cells and mucus. The eDNA is thus isolated from the environment and not from the organism itself, which provides some very relevant applications for marine environmental monitoring research.

The use of eDNA to better understand the distribution and ecology of some important commercial fish species in the North Sea is central to this project. How can we improve the management of commercially important fish species? Can we locate the spawning grounds of certain fish species in more detail and map the time of spawning even better? Which biotic components and environmental factors determine the distribution of these fish species in the North Sea? What are the ecological links between the benthic and pelagic system? The main challenge of this PhD is to answer a number of important economic and ecological questions via eDNA, which is only present in the environment in low concentrations.

As a PhD researcher, your tasks within this project include:

  • To optimize field and lab protocols to isolate eDNA from the marine environment (both from sediment and water);
  • To collect samples from the North Sea through scientific campaigns on board our research vessels;
  • To develop and critically evaluate species-specific assays for the rapid detection and quantification of commercially important fish species such as sole;
  • To apply high throughput sequencing to characterize pelagic and benthic communities in the North Sea based on eDNA;
  • To use bioinformatics and develop workflows to analyze high throughput sequencing data;
  • To write publications in scientific journals and give oral presentations at local, national and international meetings.

Your profile

  • You have a Master's degree in Science, Bio-engineering, Biology, Biotechnology, or a master with similar level and background. If you have a foreign diploma, you must have an equivalence recognition. You can request this from NARIC Flanders
  • You meet the generic conditions for the execution of a doctorate;
  • You are fascinated by marine research and interested in genetic research to better understand and study the marine environment;
  • You have a good knowledge of basic genetic analyzes, such as DNA extractions, PCR, gel electrophoresis;
  • You have knowledge of advanced DNA-based analyzes (qPCR, ddPCR, high throughput sequencing);
  • You have a good knowledge of R and a strong interest in bioinformatics;
  • You have good communication skills, including good written and oral knowledge of the English language;
  • You work independently but are also a team player and willing to work in an interdisciplinary context, where you display a creative, critical and analytical mentality;
  • You are motivated to obtain a PhD and are willing to apply for additional funding, e.g. FWO mandate (you will be supported by ILVO researchers).

Our offer

We offer you a 4-year PhD grant financed by EV-ILVO, in close collaboration with UGent.

  • The doctoral scholarship is initially granted for 1 year and can be extended to 4 years, after a favorable evaluation. The scholarship is free of personal income tax, but does contribute to your social security (e.g. pension).
  • The position is situated within the dynamic research group Aquatic Environment and Quality of ILVO, located in Ostend; you are surrounded by motivated and passionate scientists who carry out applied research in the North Sea;
  • Your promotor is Prof. Dr. Sofie Derycke, who leads the Marine Genomics cell within ILVO's Aquatic Environment and Quality department in Ostend; Sofie is also affiliated professor at the Department of Biology at Ghent University.

Target employment date September 15, 2020.

Application and selection procedure

You apply online via ‘werken voor Vlaanderen’ and this at the latest until Monday, August 17, 2020. If you cannot apply online, you can request the application form via

Candidates found fit (based on CV screening) will be invited for a selection interview on Friday 28 August 2020 (date subject to change). Please include a telephone number and e-mail address where you can be reached during the day on your CV and block the dates already mentioned in your agenda.

ILVO and UGent promote equality and diversity in the workplace. You are therefore selected on the basis of your competences and qualities, regardless of gender, origin, sexual orientation or any handicap.

More information

For more information about the content of this function:
Prof Dr. Sofie Derycke, T: +32 (0)59 56 98 89,

Terms of employment
Caroline Buyst, HR-specialist ILVO, T: +32 (0)9 272 25 12,